Unlucky three marks Panthers’ ACC opener

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Unlucky three marks Panthers’ ACC opener

Kayla Harris pitches in a 2015 game.  TPN File Photo

Kayla Harris pitches in a 2015 game. TPN File Photo

Kayla Harris pitches in a 2015 game. TPN File Photo

Kayla Harris pitches in a 2015 game. TPN File Photo

By Phoebe Gilmore / For The Pitt News

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Pitt softball head coach Holly Aprile could have brought home her 200th career win this weekend, but her Panthers fumbled on all three chances to deliver it.

In a weekend upset in Blackburg, Virginia, the Hokies (9-14, 4-2 ACC) swept the Panthers (16-8, 0-3 ACC) in a three-game series, ending a strong streak for Pitt, who won 5 of 6 games at the San Diego State Tournament earlier this month.

“We did not have any strengths this weekend. Nothing was strong. We had weaknesses in every area,” Aprile said. “We did not give our team a chance to win it offensively. We were uncharacteristically bad on defense.”

The Panthers fell to the Virginia Tech Hokies 8-0 in game one, 10-7 in game two and 12-9 in game three. Sophomore left fielder Giorgiana Zeremenko offered a silver lining offensively, kicking off the first game of the series with a double to center field in the second inning.

Zeremenko made up half of the Panthers’ hits against the Hokies, but the team didn’t convert any of her efforts into runs.

“After this weekend, I feel like everyone could have room for improvement,” Zeremenko said. “We’re going to keep grinding and keep putting forth our best effort.”

After Zeremenko’s double, Jenna Modic and Olivia Gray both hit singles in the fourth inning. Nobody came home for the Panthers, and Virginia Tech went on to trample Pitt, bringing in eight runs to win the game, 8-0.

“[Virginia Tech was] pretty patient, laying off things they didn’t need to or didn’t want to hit. They saw their pitch and kind of took advantage of it,” infielder Maggie Sevilla said.

Virginia Tech scored four runs in the first two innings of the second game, but Pitt quickly caught up in the top of the third with a homer from Erin Hershman that brought Kathryn Duran, McKayla Taylor and Shelby Pickett in to score.

With the score tied 4-4, the Hokies knocked off a homer of their own, tallying six runs. The Panthers added another three runs before the end of the inning.

Kayla Harris, Jenna Modic and freshman Sarah Dawson all got time on the mound, but struggled — a weakness that Aprile said will put the Panthers away if they can’t remedy it.

“If we can’t be better on the mound, it will be very tough to win,” Aprile said. “We have to want the challenge of playing in the ACC. This weekend, that did not happen.”

In the final game of the series, Jenna Modic gave up the first four runs to Virginia Tech on the mound. Sophomore Harris came in for relief on the last four innings and gave up eight runs, four of which were unearned.

Game three began an hour earlier than scheduled because of incoming inclement weather, with a home run from Sevilla.

The Panthers remained tied with the Hokies until the bottom of the third, when Modic let two runners on and back-to-back singles brought three runs in for the Hokies.

The Panthers had weaknesses on both sides, but Zeremenko called game one a “defensive slipup.” A combination of poor performance on the mound and two throwing errors with Hokie runners on base forced the Panthers to tighten their defense in the second and third games.

Despite the adjustments, Zeremenko said her team couldn’t make up for weak on-field play.

“[The Hokies] were picking good pitches to hit and they were just able to drop in key situations when they needed to,” Zeremenko said. “We weren’t able to string enough quality at-bats together.”

Pitt reclaimed the lead at the top of the fourth with runs from Gray, Sevilla and Taylor but ended up losing 12-9.

“We have to execute and we have to want the big moment,” Aprile said. “But that doesn’t miraculously happen.”

Looking ahead, Sevilla said her teammates shouldn’t trot back to the dugout with their heads down after a tough weekend.

“I think we rallied back and fought really hard.  We proved to ourselves and everybody that no matter what the score is, we can come back and we can threaten in any inning,” Sevilla said. “We can fight back at any time.”

The Pitt softball team will take another shot at Aprile’s 200th win and its first ACC win of the year at home March 19, to start a three-game series against North Carolina.

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